Mr. Speaker, my point of order arises out of events that took place during the last hour of debate last night on private members' business, Bill C-287, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (genetically modified food), which stands in the name of the member for Davenport.
As the House will be voting on this bill this evening, I felt it was urgent to bring this matter to your attention.
I would like you as Speaker to examine the record pertaining to the debate on Bill C-287 last night, and attempt to find some remedy to avoid this problem in the future.
I refer here to page 919 of Marleau and Montpetit, which states:
Although there is no practice of a fixed pattern for the recognition of Members wishing to speak during Private Members' Business, the Chair seeks to ensure that there is a smooth flow of debate, providing opportunities for all points of view to be expressed.
The matter of speaking order and rotation during private members' business has been raised many times in the House. The procedure book cites the occasions of March 16, 1992, March 18, 1992, November 30, 1992 and October 18, 1995 as examples.
Most of the time the debate flows smoothly. Time is shared on both sides of the House and among members from all parties. Indeed, many times the Chair upon seeing a lot of interest in debate on the subject matter of private members' business will consult the House as to division of the remaining time, so that all those who are in the Chamber and who wish to participate may.
I was very frustrated by the flow of debate last night and raised this with the Acting Speaker at the time, who stated:
At some point in time the Chair had to make a decision to balance those who were for and who were against the bill. I wanted to ensure a better understanding for the public and for our colleagues in the House to help members make up their minds before voting tomorrow afternoon. That was the reasoning behind it. There was no offence intended. I was trying to accommodate as many members as possible.
I notified the Table early in the day yesterday that I wished to speak on this bill. I was continuously in the House from the very beginning of private members' hour and rose in my place several times, but to no avail. This matter did not just affect me. Other members in the House intervened with the Acting Speaker as well, but to no avail.
I hope you will understand, Mr. Speaker, my frustration in not being allowed to speak on this bill during debate last night, so that I could place on record my full support and that of my party on Bill C-287.
I certainly had a unique position to bring to the House on this bill, not just to speak in favour of it, but in fact to bring a different argument forward and to put that on the record, one that focused on the precautionary principle, guaranteeing food safety, health protection and survival of the family farm.
The Acting Speaker last night could not have known that these were the points I wanted to get on the record, yet he did state in the House that he knew that other speakers were speaking pro and con, which is why he recognized them.
I resort to raising this with you today because of my interest in this issue. I have been working hard on this matter in the House and in committee during this and the previous parliament. In fact, on March 28, 2001, I introduced my own private member's bill, Bill C-310, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, and I also brought forward a motion in May 2000.
To conclude, in the interest of ensuring as much debate as possible during private members' business, I wonder if it is possible that when a private members' bill is deferred by order of the House that the full hour, rather than 45 minutes, is allowed for debate, and that in fact you will review the record and my concern that all sides of the House and all members in the House who would like to participate in such debate have an opportunity to do so.